When I was pregnant with my twins the comment I got the most (other than “you’ll have your hands full!”) was “Twins? Sleep while you can!”. I would get so upset that everyone thought I would never sleep again just because I had two babies at a time. I didn’t really have any mom friends to tell me that babies are up lots in the night..all my friends had babies right after me. I mean, I knew they were up to feed every couple hours as newborns, but I figured I would be a super sleep training mom and have my babies night weaned and sleeping through the night by 4 months at least. I did some reading about it before hand and I figured it would be easy and I’d be happily sleeping all night every night after just a few months. I could handle a few months of sleep deprivation, right?
What I didn’t really know about was that teething makes babies cry in the night..or that there’s these sleep regressions where they wake up lots “just because”..or that when they’re sick they wake up and need you in the night. Or a variety of other unknown reasons for waking up “just because”. I did actually get my girls to be done with night feeds around 4 months, and they slept through most nights for a few weeks after that. Then they had their 4 month sleep regression where everything I had worked hard toward seemed to go out the window and they were waking up every 2 hours wanting comfort, a bottle or their soother. By 6 months we had things back to where they were sleeping pretty much through the night for a couple months. If they did wake up in the night I would give them their soother and they’d go right back to sleep. Those few months were nice and restful and I was starting to feel like a human again, actually getting stuff done during the day since I wasn’t napping at the same time they did every day. But then we decided to move when they were 8 months old and after that it was back to waking up in the night again. Plus they started teething for the first time really bad during that time, as well as we all got sick.. and sleeping became a lovely distant memory that I daydreamed about all the time. Month 11 they suddenly started sleeping like champs and we were able to start catching up on all the lost sleep of the past few months. But alas, it was a short month of bliss and then back to teething and waking up lots every night again.
After two months of this I finally decided to separate them into their own bedrooms in hopes that they wouldn’t wake each other up as much in the night. So far they still wake up around 4:30 or 5 and go back to sleep with their bottle (with water) and for a few weeks they would even be awake for an hour or hour and a half before finally going back to sleep. I’ve started to get used to being up at this time every night. I know I need to stop giving them a bottle every time they wake up in the night, but when you’re so sleep deprived you just want to go back to sleep and will do anything to get there as soon as possible. I know if I just take a few nights to stop that habit then maybe it will solve the problem of needing a bottle to fall back to sleep, but it just seems like more effort than I’m willing to put into it right now. So, I keep getting out of bed and getting their bottle, and most nights it’s just one or the other that wakes up, so I take comfort in knowing that they can sleep all night, if only they would just both do it at the same time. But I think they take turns on purpose and they plan it out the night before who has to wake up mom that night and who gets to sleep.
So this is why I’m so obsessed with sleeping and napping and getting my babies to sleep well at night and have good naps during the day. I was super obsessed with it from the beginning and its only now at 14 months that I’m starting to not think about it ALL THE TIME. Before, all I could think about was catching up on my sleep, napping while they napped, and getting as many hours in at night as possible. I would keep track in my mind (and on paper sometimes) of how much sleep we all got each night, and then would think about how to make it better for the next night. Taking care of twins during the day was pretty tiring. It felt like all my body wanted to do was sleep all day..and all night..for a few months. Like sleeping beauty. I honestly don’t remember much of the first 6 months and felt like I was in a foggy haze from birth to about that 11 month mark. My brain just felt fuzzy, and my body, oh so tired. I drank coffee… I took vitamin B… I took iron pills. I napped a lot when I could. The months where the girls had nap transitions and naps were staggered I felt like a mombie (mom zombie). At least when they would nap at the same time I could sleep too. I was thankful that I did do at least some sleep training so that they were fairly happy to nap in their cribs most of the time. I wish I would have put them in separate rooms sooner so naps would have been easier, but I just wasn’t ready and I just couldn’t mentally handle it for some reason.
So how to deal with this sleep deprivation that can end up lasting way past what you thought was humanly possible and way past your expectations?
Be honest about how you’re doing and ask for help
Take advantage of what help you’re offered, and don’t be afraid to ask if no one’s offering. I really had to let my pride go in the first few months and just admit that I needed others. I needed help, support and encouragement but was trying to do it on my own, which ended up in an anxiety attack that wasn’t good. So we made a plan where we scheduled in a few hours every week for me to go shopping alone (for groceries usually, or just running errands), an afternoon every couple weeks with a trusted babysitter so I could go to appointments when needed, and two Friday nights a month for a date night (where we forced ourselves to go out even when we were exhausted). We were blessed to have my parents living 10 min away so my mom was our main babysitter. My husband took a few hours every Sat morning to go to McDonald’s to work on his computer (he does programming to de-stress) for his little break. This was all important for us to keep our sanity and we didn’t do it for a really long time, just for 5-6 months until things became more normal and less tiring. We also hired someone to come clean the house every two weeks for a few months just so it was one less thing for me to think about. I didn’t have the energy anyway, and with having a c-section, it made me even less able to be cleaning right away. We didn’t have it in our single income budget to do that for long, but it did help enormously in the beginning.
Make time for yourself and your spouse
We still make time for us both to have alone time, some nights out with friends occasionally, some date nights, and time for our little business ventures or hobbies. For most of our peers the mom or dad goes back to work after a year of maternity leave and then baby or babies goes off to daycare, but for us, I am a stay at home mom for a long time now. So I have to make sure that I am honest about when I need some alone time or an afternoon or evening away. Planning and making the arrangements ahead of time doesn’t take that much time out of my busy day and gives me something to look forward to. Whether it’s just going out for a date with your hubby or a mom’s night out, you need to have this time to not be a mom and enjoy some of the things you used to do, even if you’re tired. At least you will be a slightly sane, tired mom, instead of a crazy, tired mom.
Don’t feel bad about napping. A lot.
There’s always something you could be doing instead of napping. But if you are sleep deprived and not able to function to do those other things..then it’s a good sign you probably should just be sleeping when you can. Even if it’s for 2 years after your little one(s) graced the world with their sleepless presence. There will be time enough for catching up on that spring and fall cleaning you missed some other year. Or for being that master chef that creates awesome recipes from scratch. There’s a reason you have Pinterest: to keep all the recipes you are going to make someday..and all the DIY projects..and all the cute outfits you are going to wear. So don’t feel bad for napping when you’ve been pulling a night shift and day shift for months. Your sleep cycle is out of whack, so just nap. I often just have a little nap during their morning nap and then try to get stuff done in the afternoon nap. If they are down to one nap a day and you want that precious time to yourself to get stuff done or just have “me time”, then there’s always snoozing on the couch while they play beside you or watch a quiet show or read. If there are certain times of the day when your husband is home and can take over for a bit then take advantage of that time too. My hubby is a morning person so he often will get up with the girls when they wake up bright and early and let me sleep until he goes to work. That way I can sometimes get away with no nap that day!
Take care of your health
I know that may sound like a no brainer, but it’s actually really hard to take care of yourself when you are so focused on taking care of two babies. Especially when you are sleep deprived and all you think about is getting some rest. Going for a jog or taking your vitamins is just not even in the brain space. Your whole mind is pretty preoccupied with survival and getting through each day. But once you do get through the hardest beginning stages and you start to feel the fog lifting a little, and you feel you can start thinking about other things now as well as the twinsies, then make your own health your next focus. Your children need a healthy mama. A physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy mama. So get active when you can, going for walks with the stroller, or short little work outs at home. If you’re able to join a gym or class, that’s awesome too..getting out and getting fit at the same time! Organize a meal plan for the week so that you have quick, healthy meals for you and your family. Make time for yourself and your husband like mentioned above to take care of your marriage and your mental and emotional health.Don’t forget about your spiritual health also. Our family always took our spiritual life seriously and attending a church was always a big priority, but with having twins it was a lot harder to get out the first 6 months at least. But I found that it made a big difference for me once we were able to get back to attending regularly. It was good for me to have that important part of my life back again.
So those are the things that helped me the most and some days you just have to get through it..one day at a time. Go to your happy place..mine is a beach in Mexico. I was told that it gets easier, and it really does. The older they get, the easier it is. Or the more adjusted my body gets..
Either way, I comfort myself with the thoughts that in 15 years I’ll be the one who gets to go in and pull up the shades and yell “Rise and shine!” at an early hour of the morning, or I’ll sleep in to my heart’s content, or just enjoy a nice morning to myself. With my coffee. But not because I need it. Just because I want to. These are things I fantasize about at 4:30 a.m. as I lay in bed trying to go back to sleep after being up so many times already that night. And for some strange reason when I go into their rooms in the morning and am greeted with such darling little smiling faces, I somehow forget the sleepless night we just had and can only think what angels they are and how blessed I am to be their mom 🙂